June 23 – Blanca, Colorado

We were on the road by 9 AM and heading south. We met the first and only pass (going over a mountain) on this portion of the trip. It was 9000 feet and called Poncha Pass. I must be getting good at this as my hands didn’t get too sweaty. After we descended the pass, the ground turned flat and didn’t change elevation for 70 miles. We were in the high desert plateau at 7600 feet. Not a whole lot of scenery in this area of Colorado.

We arrived at Blanca RV Park and Mini Mart and quite surprised and disappointed. It is a parking lot next to a gas station and store and adjacent to a busy highway. Thank God it is only for 4 days and it was cheap (You do get what you pay for). Majority of spaces are full timers (where else would they live out here in the desert).

We set up camp and everything seems better. The people that run the park are extremely nice. And the weather is nice.

If you are wondering why we stopped here, it is the closest campground to Great Sand Dunes NP.

Friday was cool (58) this morning, perfect for a ride. No known bike trails, but the road had 6 foot shoulders. Rode 10 miles out and 10 back. Did it in my record time of one hour and 35 minutes. Area is very flat but enjoyed viewing the mountains in the distance.IMG_1597

Cleaned up and Brenda and I headed over to Great Sand Dunes NP (this only became a NP in 2004). Did the movie, stamp and magnet. These are the tallest sand dunes in North America. It was quite impressive to drive up and all of a sudden see these sand dunes (330 square miles) in front of the mountains.

We then drove down to the base of the sand dunes where we could hike up them. We parked, ate lunch and headed along the path. We found out that the river or stream (Medano Creek – officially) from the snow melt is still draining and we had to remove our shoes to get across. It was probably 100 yards. The water was warm and enjoyable. In fact, people were camped out like it was a beach.

We got across the water and WOW the sand was hot (I had left my shoes in the car) and I burned my feet and quickly returned to the water. Have to attack the sand dunes later.

We then continued down the scenic drive and came to a sand/gravel road we followed. It was narrow and rough. Eventually we got to the sign that said only 4×4 beyond, called the “Point of No Return”. We knew the sand was getting soft and we quickly turned around (that’s why I need that Jeep!).

Headed out of the park and the campground owner recommended we see Zapata Falls. We saw the sign and turned and headed up a 3 mile “rough” road. It was rocks and a little bit of gravel (when they said rough they meant rough, it was one of the worst roads I had been on, creeped at 5 mph). We continued forward with people in bigger and perhaps not their car driving past us. We made it to the top, an elevation rise of 1000 feet.DSC_0032

We found the trail and continued walking (it was rougher than the road) but we had come this far, let’s keep going. Trail was only a half mile. Started to hesitate when we talked to an older couple coming down that had indicated you had to get in the creek to see the waterfall. Hey I have come this far, I am not turning around.DSC_0033

We arrived at the creek flowing fairly fast and yes the only way to the waterfall was upstream in the creek. Brenda started and stopped. I continued on. Tricky walking on the rocks with the water flowing so fast, oh and I forgot to say – the water was COLD (this was snow melt).

I made it to the waterfall (if all those young kids can do it, so can I). The struggle on the rocks and being a little scared was worth it.

Getting back to Brenda, my feet were numb, but after a short walk downhill they began to thaw.

A little rain this afternoon at the campsite, but no downpour.

Saturday was cool (58) and I headed out on the bike heading east. Rode into the town of Fort Garland (expecting to see the fort (built in 1858) where Kit Carson fought) but there was no fort, a museum though, but I didn’t stop.IMG_1596

Continued riding to get my 22 miles. What was amazing was the temp rose to 73 degrees at the middle of the ride and on the way back to camp it decreased to 67. I could feel the change.

Someone had invited me to join the local club, but it was closed – should I come back later?IMG_1594

After I cleaned up we took the dogs and headed to Alamosa to explore. The Rio Grande Scenic Railroad stopped here in the city, but that train has a diesel engine and not the old fashioned steam locomotive. It does take people for tours and on the weekends it carries you up to La Veta for an outdoor concert. It was out on a run so I didn’t get a pic. Did take a pic of the old steam engine not retired (how nice for that engine).

We had also gone there for an Art Walk but all it was a group of people (started before we got there) walking from store to store and talking about the art. We had expected an Art show but that wasn’t so. We walked around town and window shopped until we got to the San Luis Valley Brewery. Hard to believe in a town so small, but yes there was a brewery. Good beer and the food looked good.

We visited the local park and walked the trail which paralleled the Rio Grande River. Yes the same river that divides Mexico and USA. This was almost the headwaters.

Dropped the dogs off at home and took Brenda out for a nice dinner. Not what you expect in the big city but she didn’t have to cook or clean up.

Sunday we missed church as it was 22 miles away. Not a whole lot in our area.

I did go back to the Great Sand Dunes NP and I was prepared to hike the dunes. I will have to say it was a challenge. But I continued upward. I did not make the top (and I believe the reason I didn’t was because no one was there to challenge me, it is so easy to quit when you are alone). I did get up about 450 feet and that was quite impressive. The highest peak was 755.

There were lots of people out climbing and sliding.DSC_0072

Came back home and did some maintenance on the RV. Now it’s time to relax.

Monday it is off to Pueblo Colorado.

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